The state’s largest police association sent a letter to its members last week saying a “legislative fix” is the only way to address concerns with a new law impacting school resource officers (SROs).
This comes after Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty sent a letter Wednesday to the police chiefs in her county that reignited confusion with the new law.
“In summary, her position greatly differs from Attorney General [Keith] Ellison’s most recent guidance and reiterated there are two different standards of force at play for law enforcement officers,” the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) told its members.
The debate over the new law, which prohibits the use of the prone restraint and other physical holds, has stretched on for weeks. Attorney General Ellison issued legal opinions Aug. 22 and Sept. 20 to offer his interpretation of the law. He concluded that the restrictions on force do not apply in cases where there is a threat of bodily harm or death or when SROs are carrying out their “lawful duties,” such as making an arrest or enforcing a court order.
The general mood following the Sept. 20 opinion was that a temporary solution had been reached and police departments that had pulled their officers from schools in response to the law could begin to reconsider.
But then Moriarty told Hennepin County’s police chiefs that she believes SROs can only use “reasonable force” when “there is a risk of bodily harm or death.”
“Even the Attorney General’s opinions are binding only until reviewed by a court, which could occur in the context of a criminal prosecution. Given our office’s jurisdiction to review cases and make charging decisions in Hennepin County, we do think it important to provide insight on our interpretation of this new statutory language,” she said.
This put her in “direct conflict with our state’s Attorney General,” MPPOA said.
“The new guidance from Hennepin County Attorney Moriarty makes it crystal clear the only way to adequately address this issue and return school resource officers to school is an urgent legislative fix,” the group wrote.
DFL leaders in the House and Senate have committed to holding “hearings” on the new law during the first two weeks of the 2024 legislative session, which begins in February.